The Ladies of La Patrona: Humanity's Hope
(Picture of the Ladies of La Patrona as they give food and water to migrants. La Jornada / Nathalie Seguin Tovar)
I've written so much about injustice, lately, that I thought I would focus on something positive, for once. "Las Mujeres de La Patrona" are more than positive. They are humanity's hope. They stand up for all of us with their goodness.
As Central American migrants cling to rickety old trains with the hopes of making it North the are exploited by police, corrupt officials, and gang members. But a small town on the outskirts of Cordoba in the state of Veracruz, Mexico, offers a welcome respite. The Ladies of La Patrona, who have very little means, give all that they can to the migrants passing on the trains. Why? Just because it's right.
There is very little information on the internet about the Ladies of La Patrona. The most extensive piece I could find is in Spanish and was published in a Mexican newspaper, La Jornada. In "The Ladies of La Patrona, the Hope of Central American Migrants" author Tania Molina Ramirez describes a reunion between the people of La Patrona and Tin Dardamal, the director of De Nadie.
These two sources together paint an incredible portrait of righteousness, made legendary through song, art, and film.
What struck me the most about the generosity of the residents of La Patrona is how it all began. It wasn't organized through the church, or done out of obligation. It started because one woman decided it was the right thing to do, and everyone followed in her footsteps. Through the film, De Nadie, I've only been able to identify her as Mrs. Sanchez.
Migrants, starving after riding the train for days, would ask for food as they passed La Patrona, so Mrs. Sanchez gave them what little she had. Soon, while the men were out working others women joining in. Before long, the residents of the town started holding raffles to provide for the migrants. They gave not only food and water, but clothes and medicine, as well. These are not wealthy people and they cannot give to all of the migrants, but they give what they can.
In the film, De Nadie, all of the women are asked "Why do you do this?". The following is a typical answer:
Because I have a son and I don't want my child to immigrate in the future. On the train, there are children and one of those could've been mine...My son asks me: "Why do you cry?" I cry because I have you and I don't want you to suffer like they do. It feels really bad (she starts crying)...You don't suffer, you have everything. You have food, a roof, a mother, a father. They don't have anything. They leave their country and suffer a lot and that makes me so angry...Like I tell my son: "I don't want you to be like them someday." Because I always fear that.What the residents of La Patrona do for these migrants goes beyond charity. It is solidarity. When migrants fall off the train injured, they try to get them medical help, despite the fact that doctors don't want to to treat "illegals". They will say migrants are a member of their own family to get them treated. There are migrants that have stayed in La Patrona and work out of gratitude for the help they recieve. Some stay for years. Once, when the police came to arrest migrants on the train, the residents of La Patrona stood in their way and kept them from doing so.
Another woman: We will continue our work as long as God allows us to do so.
This astonishing act is chronicled in the La Jornada article:
These valient women have also confronted public officials. About two years ago, the police rounded up the migrants. They shot into the air, they grabbed them.I have already gone on for much to long, but it's important to state the affect that these ladies have had on people all over the world. Tin Dardamal, director of the film, De Nadie, explains in the La Jornada article.
A substantial group of residents got together and were able to get the police to let them go.
"If you take one of them, you take all of us," the women said they told the police.
"The day a migrant goes into your house and steals something, don't call us," the police answered.
Since then, they haven't had to confront the police.
"The acts of [the Ladies of La Patrona] are an example of how we should act as human beings. People have written us to say that you have changed their minds," said Dardamal during a reunion with the residents of La Patrona.I will end this post with one of my favorite quotes, which seems particularly relevant in this case:
Iliana Martinez, part of the production team of De Nadie, commented that during a screening in the United States, a man said that he had realized how wrong he was about his perception of migrants and that he would look for a way to help out.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us...We are all meant to shine, as children do...It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
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